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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Deuteronomy 34

A.M. 2553. B.C. 1451.

Moses, having finished his testimony, finishes his life. Here is, The view Moses had of the land, Deuteronomy 34:1-4 . His death, burial, and age, Deuteronomy 34:5-7 . Israel’s mourning for him, Deuteronomy 34:8 . His successor, Deuteronomy 34:9 . His character, Deuteronomy 34:10-12 .

Verse 1

Deuteronomy 34:1. Moses went up When he knew the place of his death, he cheerfully mounted the hill to come to it. Those who are well acquainted with another world, are not afraid to leave this. When God’s servants are sent for out of the world, the summons runs, “Go up and die!” From the plains of Moab In which was their last station before they entered into Canaan, Numbers 33:48. To the top of Pisgah Which appears to have been the highest top of these mountains. And from hence God enabled him to take a particular view of the several quarters of the land of Canaan. Unto Dan To that city, which after Moses’s death was called so. The mention of Dan in this verse, and the account of Moses’s death and burial, and of some particulars after he had left the world, (Deuteronomy 34:5-9,) show that this chapter was not written by Moses; but probably by Samuel, Ezra, or some other of the prophets who succeeded him.

Verses 2-3

Deuteronomy 34:2-3. All Naphtali The land of Naphtali, which, together with Dan, was in the north of Canaan, as Ephraim and Manasseh were in the midland parts, and Judah on the south, and the sea on the west. So these parts, lying in the several quarters, are put for all the rest. He stood in the east, and saw also Gilead, which was in the eastern part of the land, and thence he saw the north, and south, and west. The utmost sea The midland sea, which was the utmost bound of the land of promise on the west. The south The south quarter of the land of Judah, which is toward the salt sea. The city of palm-trees Jericho, so called from the multitude of palm-trees which were in those parts, as Josephus and Strabo write. From whence, and the balm there growing, it was called Jericho, which signifies, odoriferous or sweet smelling.

Verse 4

Deuteronomy 34:4. I have caused thee to see it For though his sight was good, yet he could not have seen all Canaan, a hundred and sixty miles in length, and fifty or sixty in breadth, if his sight had not been miraculously assisted and enlarged, He saw it at a distance. Such a sight the Old Testament believers had of the kingdom of the Messiah. And such a sight believers have now of the glory that shall be revealed. Such a sight have we now, of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, which shall cover the earth. Those that come after us shall undoubtedly enter into that promised land; which is a comfort to us, when we find our own carcasses falling in this wilderness.

Verse 5

Deuteronomy 34:5. So Moses the servant of the Lord died He is called the servant of the Lord, not only as a good man, (all such are his servants,) but as a man eminently useful, who had served God’s counsels in bringing Israel out of Egypt, and leading them through the wilderness. And it was more his honour to be the servant of the Lord, than to be king in Jeshurun. Yet he dies. Neither his piety nor his usefulness could exempt him from the stroke of death. God’s servants must die, that they may rest from their labours, receive their recompense, and make room for others. But when they go hence, they go to serve him better, to serve him day and night in his temple. The Jews say, God sucked his soul out of his body with a kiss. No doubt he died in the embraces of his love.

Verse 6

Deuteronomy 34:6. And he That is, the Lord, the immediate and only antecedent to the pronoun he; buried him Using, no doubt, the ministry of angels for this purpose. Some, indeed, who are of opinion that there was nothing miraculous in his death or burial, propose rendering the words, He was buried, urging in defence of this interpretation, that active verbs in the Hebrew are often taken passively. This may be true; but still upon the very face of the narrative it evidently appears, that the manner both of his death and burial was miraculous. He died, it is said, according to the word of the Lord Who commanded him to go up to the mount and die there, as soon as he had viewed the promised land, (Deuteronomy 32:49-50,) and that at a time when his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated, (Deuteronomy 34:7,) and when certainly he had no symptom of any disease or weakness about him. And if there was nothing miraculous in his burial; if the Lord did not bury him, but he was buried by some of the people, and if by some, no doubt by thousands and myriads, why is it said, nay, how could it with truth be said, as it is in the next clause, No man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day? Surely, the plain and obvious meaning of this is, not, as the same persons would interpret it. “That, when this was written, time, which brings all things to decay, had left no footsteps of Moses’s monument, or had worn out the remembrance of the place where his body was laid,” but that no man ever knew of his sepulchre, as well as that none knew of it then. And the reason which has generally been assigned for God’s concealing from the Israelites the place where he was interred, namely, to prevent their superstition and idolatry, must be thought sufficient by those who recollect how these Israelites burned incense, long after this, to the brazen serpent which Moses made, and would probably much more have paid some superstitious, if not religious honour to his body, or the relics thereof, if they could have been found. Nor is the interpretation that, with a reference hereto, has usually been put upon Judges 1:9, which speaks of Michael contending with the devil about the body of Moses, so unreasonable or unlikely, as some would insinuate. But of this when we come thither.

Verse 7

Deuteronomy 34:7. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died But though he lived the full length of human life, and to an age which, in others that live up to it, is accompanied with many diseases and infirmities, yet this had made little or no alteration in him. By a miraculous work of God, in mercy to his church, and for the support of the great cause committed to him, it appears the full vigour of every faculty, both of body and mind, was preserved to him to his dying hour.

Verse 8

Deuteronomy 34:8. Thirty days Which was the usual time of mourning for persons of high place and eminence. It is a debt owing to the surviving honour of deceased worthies, to follow them with our tears, as those who loved and valued them, are sensible of the loss of them, and humbled for the sins which have provoked God to deprive us of them.

Verse 9

Deuteronomy 34:9. Joshua was full of the Spirit of wisdom And other gifts and graces also, but wisdom is mentioned as being most necessary for the government to which he was now called. For Moses had laid his hands upon him Whereby he committed to him the supreme authority after his departure, and implored the gifts of the Divine Spirit, to qualify him for it. In like manner the laying on of hands, as a sign of dedicating persons to offices, was accompanied with prayer in the times of the apostles, Act 6:6 ; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6. And the children of Israel hearkened unto him That is, they submitted themselves respectfully to Joshua, as to the supreme governor, whom God had appointed them instead, and by the hands of Moses.

Verse 10

Deuteronomy 34:10. There arose not a prophet since like unto Moses And yet it is said ( Deu 18:15 ) that God would raise up a prophet, from the midst of Israel, like unto Moses. Whence it follows, that this promise was not fulfilled either in Joshua or Samuel, and the best of the Jews confess, that it should not be fulfilled till the Messiah came. From these words it plainly appears that this chapter, at least this verse, could not have been written till long after Moses’s death, when a great number of prophets had been known in Israel. Whom the Lord knew face to face Whom God did so freely and familiarly converse with. This was the pre-eminence of Moses above all the prophets, that he enjoyed a nearer and more familiar intercourse with God than any of them did. See on Numbers 12:8.

Verses 11-12

Deuteronomy 34:11-12. In all the signs, &c. In these also Moses excelled all the prophets, doing more miracles than any, yea, than all that succeeded him. But the prophet whom God raised up like unto Moses in the latter days, not only equalled, but exceeded him in this, as well as in every other respect. Which Moses showed in the sight of all Israel Moses wrought all his miracles publicly, the whole congregation being witnesses of them. But Moses was greater than any of the prophets of the Old Testament in another most important respect. By him God gave the law, and moulded and formed the Jewish Church; whereas, by the other prophets he only sent particular reproofs, directions, and predictions. But as far as the other prophets came short of him, our Lord Jesus went beyond him. Moses was faithful as a servant, but Christ as a son: Christ’s miracles were more illustrious, his communion with the Father more intimate: for he was in his bosom from eternity. Moses lies buried: but Christ is “sitting at the right hand of God.” and “of the increase of his government there shall be no end.” And thus, with the death of this eminent prophet and lawgiver, endeth the Pentateuch, containing the sacred history of the world, and of the Abrahamic family in particular, for the first two thousand five hundred and fifty-three years, namely, from the creation to the arrival of the Israelites in the land of Canaan.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 34". Benson's Commentary. 1857.